COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) - Maryland's recruiting class received a much-needed boost when two highly rated local prospects signed to play with the Terrapins.
Linebacker Yannick Ngakoue, the Gatorade Player of the Year for the District of Columbia, was undecided going and chose Maryland over Florida State. Wide receiver Taivon Jacobs, who had been committed to Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State since June, pulled a surprise by signing with the Terrapins instead.
Defensive back Jacquille Veii also picked the Terps on Wednesday and the late addition of those three prospects jumped Maryland's class from 50 to No. 31 in the national rankings compiled by Rivals.com.
"I'm very proud that we closed strong. To get three quality players on signing day, that's special," Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said. "I felt good about all three going into it, but you just never know. I'm very, very pleased with what took place today. To go three-for-three (on undecided prospects) on signing day makes a big statement about the direction we're going."
Ngakoue, one of four players from Friendship Collegiate Academy in D.C. to ink with the Terps, had given Edsall a verbal commitment in mid-June, but backed off after telling the coach he wanted to check out other schools. The first team Parade All-American took official visits to Florida State and South Carolina before determining that Maryland was the right fit after all.
Jacobs may have reconsidered late in the process after Ohio State received commitments from two four-star wide receivers in James Clark and Corey Smith. Maryland had continued to recruit the Suitland High (District Heights, Md.) standout and Edsall thought an in-home visit last week may have turned the tide. It didn't hurt that older brother Levern Jacobs is currently a wide receiver with the Terps.
"Taivon is a special young man. He has a 1-year-old daughter and being a father is very important to him," Edsall said. "He wanted to fulfill his obligations as a father and decided to stay at home."
Veii, like Ngakoue, had committed to Maryland last summer, but was forced to look elsewhere after an issue arose surrounding an English course he was taking. The NCAA had not certified the course, which put Veii's eligibility in question. Veii took official visits to Iowa, Pittsburgh and Purdue while Maryland re-entered the picture after the NCAA reviewed then approved the course in question.
Maryland's top-rated recruit in the Class of 2013 is wide receiver Deon Long, a transfer from Iowa Western Community College. Long, a product of Dunbar High in D.C., was named a first team All-American after leading the National Junior College Athletic Association in receptions (100), receiving yards (1,625) and touchdowns (25) while leading Iowa Western to the national championship. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound speedster is rated a five-star prospect and the nation's No. 1 JuCo recruit by Rivals.com.
"Deon is a dynamic talent and has demonstrated the ability to make plays," Edsall said of Long, who will have two years of eligibility remaining after playing at New Mexico in 2011.
Ngakoue and Friendship Collegiate teammate Derwin Gray were among four high school signees to earn four stars from Rivals.com. Gray, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman, played in the Under Armour All-American game and was rated the nation's sixth-best offensive tackle by ESPN.com.
Manchester High (Conn.) tight end Andrew Isaacs and Glades Central High (Fla.) cornerback Will Likely were the other four-star prospects. Likely, the Palm Beach Post Defensive Player of the Year who chose Maryland over Florida State, graduated high school early and is already enrolled at the College Park campus. Long and fellow JuCo transfer Silvano Altamirano (San Diego Mesa College) have also begun taking classes at Maryland.
Edsall said the Maryland staff planned to sign just one tight end and landed the one it targeted in Isaacs, rated the No. 1 overall player in Connecticut by Rivals. The Terrapins pursued just one quarterback and also got its man in Shane Cockerille, who displayed dual-threat ability by rushing for 1,1,06 yards and passing for 1,305 yards as a senior at perennial prep powerhouse Gilman School (Baltimore).
"Overall, I'm very thrilled and excited because we were able to go out and fill the needs I was looking to fill with this class," Edsall said. "We got a lot of players with toughness, speed and athleticism."
Edsall took pride in the fact 14 of the 22 signees hailed from the Maryland-D.C. region.
"The Delaware-Maryland-Virginia area is always going to be our bread-and-butter. We want to get the best players from within a two-hour radius before we start looking elsewhere," recruiting coordinator John Dunn said.